Foods to boost your immune system
Eating a healthy balanced diet is the best long-term help you can give your immune system. However, there are also so-called ‘superfoods’ which can give your immune system that extra boost.
Brightly coloured fruit
‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’
Well, that’s what we’re told anyway.
Fruit is full of important vitamins and minerals that keep your immune system happy and healthy. Kiwi fruits and oranges are high in vitamin C for example, which helps to protect and maintain healthy cells and tissues. As a result of this your body will be more able to defend itself from colds and flu, plus eating more of these things could actually reduce the length of a cold should one take hold.
As well as kiwi and oranges, strawberries, blueberries, acai and goji are also full of vitamin C so you have plenty of immune-boosting snacks to choose from! For the ultimate health food why not try our blueberry and kiwi smoothie? It’s perfect for a light breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up!
Brightly coloured vegetables
If colourful fruits help the immune system it probably comes as no surprise that colourful vegetables are beneficial too. These are another great source of vitamin C and antioxidants which, as I’ve explained, help to keep the immune system in fighting form.
Red bell peppers are particularly high in vitamin C - in fact they actually contain more than many citrus fruits!
Green, leafy vegetables
The likes of broccoli, spinach and kale are a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals so should definitely be part of your diet. These three foods are particularly rich in vitamins A, E and that all-important C. Remember though, these things are lost if the veg is cooked too much so keep your greens firm in order to retain as much goodness as possible!
Although the foods I’ve mentioned are important, eating a wide range of fruit and vegetables will provide your body with a good mix of nutrients. Mushrooms for example, encourage the production of infection-fighting cells and also improve the action of white blood cells. White blood cells are cells of the immune system that work to protect the body from infection and viruses.
Sweet potatoes are also beneficial as these are high in vitamin A which helps to improve your skin. As your skin is the first line of defence against bacteria it is worth looking after it!
This might not be the most obvious addition to this list but oats have an antioxidant effect, are high in vitamin B and have been shown to boost immunity so, as you can see, they are pretty important! Some overnight oats or a homemade orange oat bar will help you get a good dose of oats, plus they both make great breakfasts that will set you up for the day ahead.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds make a tasty and healthy snack but they are also important for the immune system. The likes of almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and walnuts are rich in minerals such as zinc which is vital for maintaining the normal function of cells within the immune system.1 A zinc deficiency can therefore reduce the effectiveness of the immune system so it’s crucial to keep your levels of this mineral up.
This is full of probiotics, that is, live cultured bacteria or ‘friendly bacteria’. This helps your digestive system absorb as many nutrients as possible and therefore gives your immune system the energy it needs to fight off bugs.
That being said, the sweet, colourful yogurts that line the supermarket shelves will not help in this way so next time you are doing your shopping keep an eye out for a natural variety. If you’re unsure what constitutes this simply have a look at the label – it’ll usually say ‘no added ingredients’ or ‘contains only cow’s milk.’
Garlic and ginger
These spices add a distinctive flavour to meals but are also beneficial for your immune system. There’s lots of research to back up the claim that garlic and ginger are brimming with antioxidants which help to fight infection and support the immune system.
Drinks to boost your immune system
So, you can use your diet to keep up the health of your immune system but, equally, there are lots of drinks that will help here too. Below I’ve listed my top three suggestions but for even more information on this topic have a look at my blog ‘8 drinks to boost the immune system’.
Echinaforce Hot Drink
Echinacea is one of the most effective immune-boosting ingredients as it helps to support the immune system and fights cold and flu symptoms.
Our Echinaforce Hot Drink is made from fresh extracts of Echinacea root and herb which are more effective than using the dried herb.
This product also has the addition of Elderberry juice which gives the drink a delicious fruity taste.
Anyone who likes a good cuppa knows that it is the cure for all evil however, now there is science to back up such thoughts. That’s because tea has antioxidant effects but even more promising for the immune system is the fact that green tea has health protective properties in the form of chemicals called phytochemicals.
Staying hydrated keeps your immune system working at its best, plus water also helps to flush out any toxins from the body thus helping the immune system do its job. So, drink water regularly throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated.
By adding multiple vegetables to a curry or ending a meal with a healthy fruit salad it is pretty easy to incorporate lots of immune boosting foods into your diet. However, we have made it even easier by suggesting some recipes you could try:
Originally published 5 September 2014 (updated on 11 October 2018)